Last night’s Game Four of the NBA Finals found the Boston Celtics beating the Los Angeles Lakers to tie the series at two games apiece. On the surface, it appears that Boston’s bench was the key reason for the victory. But that is only one of a multiple of B’s that were the Lakers’ undoing. Four B’s actually sank the Lakers: Big Baby, Bench, Boards, and no Bynum.
And, the loss of Andrew Bynum ranks as the biggest B of last night’s game, but we’ll hit that one last.
Obviously, Big Baby Glen Davis was that in name only, as he was a man among boys throughout Game Four, especially in the fourth quarter. He scored in the paint literally at will and over much taller defenders.
He took the ball hard against Pau Gasol, but what was more surprising was that Davis actually had a few blow-bys on Lamar Odom. How Odom got beat off the dribble by Big Baby is a mystery.
Isn’t Lamar the one with the superior quickness? But time and time again, Big Baby got around Odom and scored. And, scoring wasn’t the only area Davis hurt the Lakers.
The Celtics hit the Lakers where it counts: the Boards. Remember the all-important equation. Rebounds equal Rings. The C’s had that one humming.
The Celtics pounded the Lakers on the boards last night. And, this wasn’t just Rajon Rondo getting a ton of offensive boards. The C’s got a litany of second shots and put them back, especially Big Baby.
The boards are where the Lakers have been excelling and they must have a return to excellence in this area if they want to take this series. The Lakers simply can’t let the Celtics, especially the undersized Davis, do this kind of damage again.
The other B that nailed the Lakers was the Bench. The Celtics Bench went crazy time last night. Between Davis and Nate Robinson, Boston got a massive boost in the offensive department.
They also got production from Rasheed Wallace, both offensively and using up his six fouls. Tony Allen also came into the game and played solid D on Kobe Bryant. For a long stretch of the fourth, Boston had only one starter on the court with the above subs.
All the credit for last night’s success goes to Celtics Coach Doc Rivers. He had the strength and poise to stick with his bench when they took the lead on the Lakers early in the fourth quarter.
Doc rode his bench like a Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, even sending Kevin Garnett back from the scorer’s table twice in the period. The move by Doc was brilliant and was the difference in the game.
Besides Davis, the Nate Robinson move also rewarded the C’s. Doc inserted the little Celtic for Rondo and the move paid off. That is because the Lakers have to guard Robinson from outside. There is no sagging off on this player, like Rondo. Otherwise, as shown last night, the former Knick can nail his outside jumper. The move was critical.
But the most important B of last night’s Lakers demise was the loss of Andrew Bynum. Twelve minutes of play isn’t going to get it done for the Lakers if Bynum can’t go on his hurt knee. When Bynum is on the court, he adds size and rebounding, and he blocks shots and covers the paint.
For me, however, the biggest area that Bynum helps the Lakers is the matchup department. When he is on the floor, Perkins guards Bynum and Garnett takes Gasol. When this happens, Bynum can score on Perkins and Gasol can use his speed and versatility to put the ball in the cup on Garnett. And, especially in Games One and Two, Bynum almost demanded a double team with his prowess in the paint.
But when Bynum isn’t on the floor, Perkins muscles up Gasol and Garnett overpowers Odom. These are the matchups that burned the Lakers in 2008 and last night, at least, it worked again.
I don’t know if this older version of the Celtics front line can do this for another three games because Gasol is much improved this year compared to the last time they played in the Finals. It’s just that we don’t need a full time dose of this the rest of the games. The Lakers need Bynum. He is the key to the repeat.
The saving grace from the loss is that the Lakers have one B in their control and that is Bynum. And, with an extra day of rest and, possibly another drain of his injured knee, Bynum may just be a solid go for the pivotal Game Five.
My hope is that Bynum can play at a high level and can deliver the performances he gave earlier in the series. He really is the most important B to beat the C’s.